Subject: A Pink Whipray (Himantura fai) accompanied by several juvenile Golden Trevallies (Gnathanodon speciosus) glides over the wreck of the Tug II on Mauritius’ leeward side. Swimming through shoals of fish that are attracted to the little wreck, a Bluestreak Cleaner Wrasse (Labroides dimidiatus) takes the opportunity to join the ray’s company. The little Golden Trevallies use the big ray as protection against predators. This is common practice for the beautiful gold and black-barred juveniles (stripes run horizontally on fish, while bars are vertical).
The Pink Whipray is a species of stingray that can be found in the waters of the Indo-Pacific region, including the Red Sea, the eastern coast of Africa, the northern coast of Australia and into the Pacific Ocean, northward to the Philippines, and eastward to various islands, including Micronesia, the Marquesas Islands, and Samoa. The Pink Whipray is also commonly known as Fai's Stingray, Pink Fantail Ray, and Pink Whip Tail Ray. The species is characterised by its pinkish hue and diamond-shaped flattened body, which is wider than it is long. This large ray can reach 1,8m/5.9ft across and over 5m/16ft long.
The Pink Whipray has a uniform greyish to brownish colour above, becoming dark grey to black on the tail past the sting, and uniformly light below. It gets its common name from its pinkish hue over its overall greyish to brownish body colour. The specific epithet “fai” means "stingray" in the native languages of Samoa, Tonga, and Tahiti. Another common name for this species is Tahitian stingray.
The Pink Whipray is a benthic species that is often found in small groups. These aggregations prefer shallow soft-bottomed habitats such as the sandy areas of coastal waters, including estuaries, lagoons, and coral reefs. It tends to be found closer to shore during the warm season. The Pink Whipray feeds primarily on shrimps and prawns, which it detects using its electroreceptors located on its head. The electroreceptors, also called Ampullae of Lorenzini, help the Pink Whipray locate prey which is often buried in the sand or mud.
The Pink Whipray is aplacental viviparous, which means that the ray’s embryos develop inside eggs but remain in the mother's body until they are ready to hatch. Newborn Pink Whiprays measure between 55-60cm/21-23inch in length.
The Pink Whipray is currently listed as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). It is subject to incidental capture or bycatch in shrimp and prawn fisheries.
Technique: Although Pink Whiprays are a common sight on the sand flat that surrounds the wreck, this particular ray came out of left field and really surprised me. I was totally unprepared to film this big bottom-dweller, and my video lights were not turned on. I chose to pursue the ray in its flight towards the wreck without taking the time to turn on my video lights. So the shot required a lot of work in post-production regarding stabilisation and colour correction. Noise reduction software reduced the amount of suspended particles in the water.
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